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Studies that Show the Prevalence of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

From the working group on MCS/ES accessibility of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board ("Access Board"), Washington, D.C.

The prevalence of multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities has been the subject of several studies.

Surveys conducted by the California and New Mexico departments of health and by medical researchers in North Carolina found that 16 percent to 33 percent of the people interviewed reported that they are unusually sensitive to chemicals. [C. Miller & N. Ashford, "Multiple  Chemical Intolerance and Indoor Air Quality," in "Indoor Air Quality Handbook" 27.8 (McGraw-Hill 2001).]

In the North Carolina study, 4.1% of the respondents reported having daily or almost daily symptoms [William Meggs, et al., "Prevalence and Nature of Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity in a General Population," Arch Environ Health, 1996; 51:275-82] and in the California survey, 4% of the respondents reported that they were sensitive to "a lot of chemicals."  [Richard Kreutzer et al., "Prevalence of People Reporting Sensitivities to Chemicals in a Population-Based Survey, " American Journal of Epidemiology 150, no. 1 (July 1, 1999).]

In addition, the New Mexico health department survey found that 2 percent of the respondents reported that they had been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity [Ron Voorhees, Results of analyses of multiple chemical sensitivity questions, 1997 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, New Mexico Department of Health, February 8, 1999] and the California survey found that 6 percent of the respondents reported they had been diagnosed with environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity.

Another California Department of Health (Environmental Health Investigations Branch) survey found that 3 percent of the people interviewed reported that they are unusually sensitive to electric appliances or power lines.  [P. Levallois, et al., "Prevalence and Risk Factors of Self-Reported Hypersensitivity to Electromagnetic Fields in California," in California EMF Program, "An Evaluation of the Possible Risks From Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) From Power Lines, Internal Wiring, Electrical Occupations and Appliances, Draft 3 for Public Comment, April, 2001" Appendix 3]

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